Collaboration Key to Providing Pathways to Employment

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More than 82% of U.S. manufacturers say they are having trouble finding the skilled labor they need to fill tens of thousands of jobs.  As reported by CNBC today, this is the situation that a St. Paul textile manufacturer found itself in two years ago after demand started to rise for their American-made products.

Since 1904, J.W. Hume has manufactured its products in the U.S. even while most apparel and textile firms were sending their work to overseas labor markets. Despite their commitment to the American workforce, decreased industry demand for skilled sewers over the years resulted in two generations of workers who didn’t have the skills to fill available positions at the company.

Determined to fix the problem, former CEO Jen Guarino reached out to local community colleges and other manufactures to find a solution and equip American students with the skills to fill available positions. Their collaborative effort resulted in a six-month training program run by Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis designed to teach students how to use industrial cutters, steamers and factory sewing machines to fabricate garments, purses, satchels, bedding and other products. Since its launch, the Dunwoody program has had a 90% placement rate and graduates earn on average $13.46 an hour.

Over the past few years, city leaders have taken concerted efforts to launch initiatives that produce the type of results that are being seen in the Twin Cities. New, multi-sector collaborations are being created to dramatically increase the proportion of residents in their communities who obtain a postsecondary degree and credential and go on to successful full-time employment.

Through their power to convene and set the agenda, local officials are able to effectively scale up efforts by individual stakeholders by bringing together leaders from community and technical colleges, public and private universities, school districts, community organizations, workforce boards and chambers of commerce to develop a more coordinated strategy to provide students with the supports and services they need to attain employable skills.

Through initiatives such as Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success, supported by the Lumina Foundation, and Communities Learning in Partnership, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, NLC has supported the work of mayors and other local leaders to boost postsecondary graduation rates by better coordinating the services that colleges, schools and cities provide to students.

As postsecondary education and workforce development gain prominence as drivers of economic growth, policy reformers and industry alike increasingly turn to mayors to make the necessary connections between institutions of learning and the marketplace.

To learn more about how your city can get started or improve efforts underway to equip students with in demand skills, visit NLC’s Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success resource page. You can watch the entire CNBC segment on their website.